Sunday, March 25, 2012

Daniel Everett And The Pirahã

 A bit too pooped to write anything serious this morning, so here's a nice interview with linguist Daniel Everett re The Pirahã tribe of the Amazon Basin:

All languages have unique characteristics, but the Pirahã just seems to have so many unique characteristics. Things that we didn't expect. I mean the absence of numbers, the absence of counting and colours, the absence of creation myths, and the refusal to talk about the distant past or the distant future. A number of things like this, including, the special characteristic of recursion, the ability to keep a process going in the syntax forever.

Actually, a number of Australian languages are also mathematically impoverished in the same fashion as Pirahã.

In any case, my point here is not the particulars of Everett's argument, but just that he seems to me to be one helluva guy.  I argued philosophy of language with him via email some years back,  and he was happy to share a few unpublished notes with me.  For my part, I told him his view was quite Wittgensteinian and he should read the PI or Blue and Brown Books.  I don't know if he ever did.

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